Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 July 2009
In the period from the end of the Cold War, at the beginning of the 1990s, to the present, academics and laymen alike have moved away from a view of borders as fixed and hard features of international life. Today, borders are much more commonly understood as contingent, porous, and in flux. The Cold War, especially its last two decades, had managed to make the lines dividing countries on world maps seem to be permanent parts of the landscape, like rivers and mountains. Those years had eclipsed the memories of the dissolution of huge empires in World War I, the creation of new states and mandates after that war, and the occurrence of massive territorial changes during World War II. Indeed, once the old European empires finally faded away in Africa and Asia and decolonization drew to an end, mostly by the mid-1960s, remarkably few countries disappeared or even had significant border changes. One could cite a few cases – the transformation of East Pakistan into Bangladesh, the appearance and disappearance of Biafra, the cease-fire lines after the 1967 war in the Middle East – but they were the limited exceptions to a period of extraordinary state-border stability.
Not surprisingly, then, outside an interest in decolonization, few books and articles by political scientists and sociologists dealt with the question of borders in the postwar period and, especially, in the generation from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s.